The Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix was significantly damaged from Saturday’s monsoon storm.

The morning after monsoon activity tore through the Phoenix area, residents and social media users were asking how is that the Burton Barr Central Library sustained so much damage

Officials spent some of Sunday morning answering that question and others while also working to get a full assessment of what might have been lost.

All five floors of the structure took damage, according to officials.


How did the water get into the library?  

While a full assessment had not been conducted by Sunday morning, Phoenix Fire Capt. Reda Bigler said the tiles on building’s unique rooftop were picked up by wind and rain combination, causing a “ocean effect” against the flat roof. 

The tiles then ruptured an internal pipe under surface, pouring water into the library, she said. 


What was the response? 

When the library’s emergency monitoring system alerted fire officials to the building at about 8 p.m., crews were faced with an issue “much more involved and serious.”

“While it didn’t change our response, it was still a shock when we realized is our main public library with a lot of things that are irreplaceable,” Bigler said to The Arizona Republic Sunday morning. 

Crews quickly worked to shut off the building’s water system, control the leak, and also worked to preserve valuable items and as many books as they could, Bigler said. 

Some firefighters expressed personally that they weren’t able to salvage certain books as water rushed into the 5-story library at about 15 gallons of water a minute. 

“They understood that the library is more than just shelves with books,” said Lee Franklin, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix Public Library. “They were fast, professional and so caring,”

What about Burton’s collections?

The library boasts a rare book collection and Arizona historical archives, she said. Luckily the portion of the building where they were housed, received little damage. 

The greatest hit was to the north end of the building’s first floor, she added. 

Bigler said crews were fascinated and also relieved, to hear that the library’s more valuable items that cannot be replaced, are safely guarded in a vault that wasn’t damaged.  


What happens now?

Library staff and crews worked closely Saturday night to do immediate evaluation to preserve and salavage valuale, Franklin said. The library is being closed indefinitely. 

Franklin said the “unique floating roof” of the building “exposed the official system.” City and library experts and leadership will discuss how to conduct further assessment on the damage and what needs to be immediately repaired structurally to prevent a similar incident to ever occur. 


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